Q. Last week in Turkey, US Secretary of State John Kerry chastised Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan for terming Zionism a “crime against humanity”. Is there any hope at all for Turkish-Israeli rapprochement?
A. from – Yossi Alpher, journalist with Americans for Peace Now – that is in the Middle East: March 4, 2013
Some modest hope, despite Erdogan’s inflammatory rhetoric. There are a number of indications that once Netanyahu’s new government is in place and concessions to Turkey can’t be used as a domestic political football in Israel, the prime minister is planning finally to offer Ankara a long-delayed “apology” for Turkish loss of life in the May 2010 Mavi Marmara incident. In parallel, he’ll have none other than the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt to vouch for a radical Israeli loosening of at least the land blockade on the Gaza Strip, thereby partially satisfying another Turkish demand.
From his standpoint, Netanyahu will be able to explain to the Israeli public the urgent need for even a modest rapprochement with Turkey with reference to the ongoing collapse of Syria. Both Turkey and Israel border on Syria, and it is likely that some sort of Turkish-Israeli coordination will be required to deal with emergencies like the need to secure “loose” Syrian strategic weaponry before it falls into the hands of irresponsible parties. Turkish-Israeli coordination regarding Iran is undoubtedly also an Israeli policy aspiration, as the international coalition’s talks with Iran in Almaty last week claimed some modest progress on nuclear issues.
The growing chaos in Syria presumably explains at least in part the US role in mediating between Ankara and Jerusalem: Washington is actively planning for emergency contingencies in Syria. The Syria situation may also explain why, last week, Netanyahu reportedly met for the second time in recent months with Jordan’s King Abdullah II: some measure of Jordanian-Israeli coordination regarding Syria may also soon become necessary, and Netanyahu may ask Jordan again to host Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Besides, Jordan’s king was on his way to Turkey, where he could also conceivably put in a good word for Netanyahu in the Syrian context; on Syria, there is little distinction between the Israeli and Jordanian positions and concerns.
Recently, Israel reportedly yielded to pressure from the US and Boeing corporation to end a freeze on supplying advanced electronic warfare systems for the Turkish Air Force. From Israel’s standpoint, it was obliged to honor a contractual obligation frozen after the Mavi Marmara crisis. But Israel obviously has reason to assume that it need not contemplate any sort of genuine military crisis with Turkey.
Erdogan, incidentally, is pressing on with an attempt to reach an historic agreement with the PKK, the militant Turkish Kurdish movement. In so doing, he hopes not only to end a decades-long armed revolt in eastern Turkey, but to ensure that strides toward autonomy among Syria’s Kurds do not worsen the Turkish Kurdish situation. Erdogan’s move toward a Kurdish agreement is not popular with many Turks. This may at least partly explain his reliance last week on incendiary rhetoric toward Israel: he needs to mollify his Islamist base in anticipation of unpopular concessions to the Kurds. On the other hand, to the extent Erdogan is a prisoner of his rhetoric, he may either reject rapprochement with Israel, or “pocket it” and maintain his cold and critical demeanor toward Jerusalem.
Turkish prime minister to press: censor what you write.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused the country’s media of trying to undermine a nascent Kurdish peace process, according to a Reuters report.
The agency says he has called on journalists to censor themselves if they love their nation, a suggestion that has gone down badly with the press.
Erdogan condemned an article in the daily Milliyet newspaper, which published a transcript of a meeting last month between Abdullah Ocalan and Kurdish politicians.
Ocalan, head of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) who has been in jail in since 1999, has been in peace talks with Turkey since October. The transcript revealed his apparent frustration with the peace process.
Erdogan said: “If you are going to conduct this kind of journalism, then we don’t need your journalism. We want a service to this nation. Whoever is working to sabotage this resolution process is against me, my friends and the government.”
Journalists hit back. Ahmet Abakay, head of the Progressive Journalists Association, wrote: “Newspapers and television stations are not corporations tied to the government. Journalists are also not civil servants or officials of the prime ministry.”
And Yusuf Kanli, a columnist for the daily Hurriyet, wrote: “It is not the business of a prime minister to yell in a bossy attitude and try to dictate what to report and not report.”